The Price of organ transplants

Columbia College professor makes the case for mandatory organ donation.

Love life. Donate.
Quick: how many rock star/community reading group book selector/philosophy professor/organ donor advocates can you name?

Perhaps there is just one: Dr. Mark Price, chair and associate professor of philosophy at Columbia College. And mandatory organ procurement is his latest cause.

In the United States and many other nations, the current organ procurement system is an opt-in system. People must register or consent to being organ donors before their death, a system that often operates in conjunction with a drivers' license.

This system, however, is widely considered a failure.

Recent data shows that while 100,000 patients each year desperately require organs, transplants in the United States average only between 10,000 and 20,000. This critical shortage has prompted Price and others to make the case for mandatory organ procurement.
Mark Price
The system of four

Price developed four eloquent and persuasive arguments for organ procurement. They are:
  • There are no successful moral justifications for refusing to donate one’s organs after death
  • Failing to donate one’s organs for lifesaving treatment is morally equivalent to unjustified, deliberate killing
  • We are morally justified in preventing unjustified deliberate killing
  • Mandatory organ procurement is therefore morally justified.
Price’s argument draws upon abortion ethics and the moral symmetry principles of Canadian-born philosopher Michael Tooley. Tooley argues that duties become more important as the amount of effort needed to fulfill them decreases.

There is no effort needed to donate organs.

Price is no stranger to thorny medical ethical and moral issues. He is active in the medical community as a member of the clinical ethics committee for University Hospital because he feels strongly about medical ethics and its impact on society.
“The issues [in medicine] that get raised point in so many ways to ethics," he says. "It is a forum to begin to discuss critical problems ... Medical ethics hold far larger implications than just medical treatment.”

He also is on the book selection panel of One Read, an annual Daniel Boone Regional Library initiative that has Columbians read and comment on a book. He joined the panel several years ago after one of his favorite books — Ender's Game, a 1985 science-fiction classic that carries a formidable ethical wallop (think genocide) — was chosen as One Read. Now, Price helps narrow the selections to a top-10 list then helps lead discussions. He says being part of One Read gives him the opportunity to read books normally far outside his field.

Roots rocker
And the rock star?

Price, who grew up in Georgia singing occasionally in church, plays a mean electric guitar with his band, Hawthorne (as in the shrub, spelled without an "e" and Nathaniel), and sometimes as an acoustic duo with the band's lead singer. You can find him in some of the funkiest dives around Columbia, Mo., such as Mojo’s, Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River and the Rocheport General Store.

Price writes many of the songs himself and describes his music as roots rock or Americana.

Price holds not one but three degrees in philosophy: a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia, a master's from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. He began teaching for the Evening Campus at Columbia College in 1998 while completing his doctorate. Tellingly, his dissertation was "Life and Death Issues: A Practical Approach to Moral Theory."

Shortly after earning his Ph.D., he applied and was accepted for a Day Campus position as assistant professor of philosophy. He also has taught online but says he prefers teaching face to face and enjoys watching "the spark of knowledge" flare in students.

And now he's passing the spark on to the entire community.


Mike said...

I am a state trooper and know the benefits that help improve the quality of lives in others by organ donation. I can say that within hours the benefits to others nationwide is real. Imaging receiving the gift of sight, or having a terminal condition reversed by donation. This happens everyday. When you renew your driver's license and asked if you will donate, please say yes.

Anonymous said...

Organ transplant is not a cure. It substitutes an expensive chronic condition for an acute condition. The average heart transplant recipient would have lived 2 years without the transplant and with a cost of about one million dollars (surgery + years of drugs) will live about 7 years. How many lives could have been saved if that million dollars were spent on better ER facilities? Organ transplants are great for the individual, but bad medicine overall.